Letter 274b

274b. Friedrich Schlegel to Schleiermacher in Berlin: Jena, ca. 17 November 1800 [*]

[Jena, ca. 17 November 1800]

. . . My second and more important objection [1] is your intention not to come. Do whatever you can, you cannot believe how I wish it, how I long for it, and how much I genuinely need it. — Let it be the polar star of all your practical arrangements. [2]

I will finish Lucinde this winter, i.e., part 2, or die. [3] The gods, by the way, will be assisting me.

Things are going so-so with my public lecturing. [4] Irony must admittedly remain the foundation of it all, [5] since for now the only thing I can be sure of despite even my best efforts is that I myself will learn something in the process.

You will greatly enjoy Ritter’s company, and our collective life here, which still includes both Pauluses, [6] and it is an injustice to them, too [if you do not come], since they are as well-intentioned toward us as one could hope for.

Goethe is here again, [7] and I am summoned to him alternately with Ritter, though in reality I sooner try to make myself rare with him. What I can get from him, I already have, nor will he ever perceive what I am saying; against that possibility I am also sufficiently secure. He is sooner to be approached in depth from the perspective of physics, and in that sense Ritter is better off. Though there, too, depth has a certain thickness, breadth, and length. —

Apropos, did I already send you my distich on the old gentleman? [8]

Splendidly, splendidly indeed does he come across especially by torchlight,
Deceptive in such radiance does the marble god appear e'en to be living.

The copy of Florentin is only provisionaly for you and Madam Herz [9] (otherwise for no one else, since it will not be distributed for several months yet, for which reason I promised the publisher I would be very frugal with my copies), to whom I send my warmest regards. Both of you will, of course, be receiving vellum copies, which will probably not be available, however, for another three weeks. . . .


[*] Sources: Aus Schleiermacher’s Leben 3:229–31; KGA V/4 317–19; KFSA 25:198–99. Probably sent together with the one Dorothea Veit wrote to Schleiermacher on 17 November 1800 (letter 274c). Back.

[1] After issues concerning the proposed collective translation of Plato, which Friedrich addresses in the first part of the letter and which continued to be a sore spot between the friends. Back.

[2] The prospect of Schleiermacher coming to Jena for a visit had been discussed for months; the trip never materialized. See, e.g., Friedrich’s letter to Schleiermacher on ca. 1 July 1800 (letter 264c). — One might point out as an aside that Caroline never met Schleiermacher in person. Back.

[3] Friedrich never finished the second volume of Lucinde. Back.

[4] Friedrich had begun lecturing publicly at the university on 27 October 1800. Back.

[5] Friedrich makes similar remarks to Wilhelm in his letter on 10 November 1800 (letter 274a), in which he calls his students “inexpressibly stupid.” Caroline repeats the remark about irony in a letter to Schelling on 18 November 1800 (letter 274d). These remarks suggest, of course, that his lecturing was in fact not going well. Back.

[6] Friedrich and Dorothea’s new apartment was located near that of H. E. G. Paulus and his wife, Karoline Paulus. Back.

[7] Goethe was back in Jena from 14 to 24 November 1800, and on 15 November his diary notes seeing “Friedrich Schlegel at 11:00, then took a walk” (Weimarer Ausgabe 3,2,313). Concerning the topics of conversation during such visits that autumn (1800), see Goethe’s comments to Schiller on 16 September 1800 (cited in Friedrich and Dorothea’s letter to Wilhelm on 30 September 1800 [letter 269a], note 13). Similarly to Schiller on 30 September 1800 (Correspondence Between Goethe and Schiller 2:343):

When I tell you that I am also discussing transcendental idealism with Niethammer and Friedrich Schlegel, and higher physics with Ritter, you can imagine that poetry is almost wholly cast aside; however, it is to be hoped that it will return again.

And on 16 November 1800 (ibid., 347):

Where poor poetry will fly to at last I do not know; at present she is again in danger of being driven into great straits by philosophers, naturalists and their set. I cannot, it is true, deny that I myself invited and challenged these gentlemen, and that I am following the bad habit of my own free will, and, accordingly, cannot blame anyone but myself. However, some very good things have been very fairly started, so that I spend my time pleasantly enough. Back.

[8] Goethe was 51 at the time. Back.

[9] Dorothea had given Schleiermacher similar instructions concerning the page proofs (31 October 1800 [letter 273b]). Back.

Translation © 2014 Doug Stott